Navy Pilot: Here's How I Got The US's First Air-To-Air Kill In 18 Years


Months after a Syrian Su-22 was shot down by a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet over Syria, a detailed account of the dogfight — the first U.S. air-to-air kill since 1999 — has come to light, reports The War Zone.

At this year’s annual Tailhook Association symposium, the Navy pilot who shot down the Sukhoi in June, Lt. Cmdr. Michael "Mob" Tremel, discussed the dogfight. Tremel and three other pilots who were flying an air-support mission that day were guest speakers at the Sept. 10 event, which was attended by current and former Navy aviators.

On June 18, Tremel and his wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, launched for their close-air support sortie over Syria, months after the U.S. Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airfield and weeks after an Air Force F-15E shot down an Iranian drone over southern Syria. The situation on the ground — and in the air — was growing complicated and dangerous.

“The whole mission out there that day was to go defeat ISIS and annihilate ISIS,” Tremmel said. “If at any point in time that day it had escalated, that would have been fine by us.”

But it didn’t play out that way.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael "Mob" Tremel, discussed the shootdown of the Su-22 over Syria in June 2017.Screenshot via the Tailhook Association

As the F/A-18s came on station over U.S.-backed forces, they spotted a Syrian Su-22 approaching ground forces, carrying ordnance.

Repeated radio calls to the Su-22, a Cold War-era attack jet designed to strike targets on the ground, went unheeded. According to The War Zone, even after Tremel “thumped” the aircraft three times — which means flying over the jet and popping flares — the warnings were ignored. As the Su-22 came within striking distance and began to dive, it released its ordnance, which landed near U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Tremel — cleared under the rules of engagement — locked onto the Su-22 with an AIM-9X Sidewinder and fired, but the Sukhoi popped flares. “I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened at that time,” Tremel said at the symposium. Despite the venerable Sidewinder’s rep as a highly advanced piece of ordnance, the infrared-guided missile was drawn away by flares.

The enemy bird was still in the air and still a threat to friendly forces on the ground, so it was time to “try something different,” Tremel recounted.

He switched to the slightly slower-to-arm, radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAM, and cut loose with one.

Related: The DoD Just Dropped New Details On The Shootdown Of A Syrian Warplane By A US F/A-18E »

“It’ll do its job,” Tremel said. And it did. The AMRAAM struck the rear of the Su-22 and exploded. As the aircraft pitched and then plummeted to the earth, the pilot ejected. Tremel quickly rolled away from the explosion to avoid flying through it, adding that by the end of the sortie “I know I was just operating on brainstem power.” The whole ordeal lasted less than eight minutes, Tremel said in July.

Even though he had just scored the United States’ first air-to-air kill in 18 years, after Tremel made it back to the carrier, business continued as usual. In his case, that meant Tremel’s CO reminding him he was the air-wing duty safety officer that day, Tremel said at the symposium. “The show goes on,” he added, with a laugh.


An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady flies a training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Rose Reynolds)

For some brave U-2 pilots, life on the ground just can't compare to flying a 64-year-old spy plane to the edge of space, but some airmen need that extra rush.

For Capt. Joshua Bird of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, he seemed to have found that rush in cocaine — at least, that's what an official legal notice from Beale Air Force Base said he did.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo)

A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.

The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.

Read More Show Less
A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

(Reuters) - A Black Hawk helicopter went down in central Minnesota on Thursday, killing all three soldiers on board, after it lost contact with the Minnesota National Guard during a maintenance test flight, Governor Tim Walz said on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less